Why it matters: Our nation’s transportation and infrastructure systems are vital to our economy and our way of life. Infrastructure supports the movement of people, goods, services, and our nation’s fish and wildlife. Infrastructure is not only defined in terms of “gray infrastructure,” such as roads and bridges, as Congress has long recognized the need to support and fund “natural infrastructure.” The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is the first committee in Congress to advance an infrastructure bill and did so with strong investments that benefit sportsmen and women following months of engagement by CSF.
The Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act represents significant progress toward increasing access for sportsmen and women, enhancing natural resource resiliency, and funding innovative programs to increase highway safety while simultaneously conserving wildlife. The bill authorizes hundreds of millions of dollars to increase access on federal public lands through programs such as the Federal Lands Access Program and the Federal Lands Transportation Program. In addition, the bill includes an innovative pilot program to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions on our nation’s roadways by directing $350 million to the construction of wildlife crossings over five years.
On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee (Committee) held a vote on the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act, the first infrastructure bill to gain momentum in Congress, and passed the bill on a vote of 20-0.
It is widely believed that current estimates for wildlife-vehicle collisions – 300,000 annually – are severely underreported as the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates there are one to two million collisions annually between vehicles and large animals. In 2018, approximately 200 Americans died from collisions with wildlife, and it is estimated the costs associated with wildlife-vehicle collisions is $8 billion annually. Studies have shown up to an 80% reduction in wildlife-vehicle collisions associated with the construction of wildlife crossings. Such reductions are mutually beneficial for wildlife, motorists and those that participate in wildlife-dependent recreation. Wildlife crossings present a strategic opportunity to reduce threats to human safety associated with wildlife-vehicle collisions while restoring and enhancing habitat connectivity.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation applauds the Committee for their bipartisan work to craft the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act. The bill now awaits consideration in other Committees with jurisdiction over reauthorization of the federal government’s surface transportation programs.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?